RIGHT ROYAL MESS
Last year 1800 patients waited more than 24 hours in the Royal Hobart Hospital’s emergency department In Melbourne’s four big hospitals there were 2
HEALTH Minister Sarah Courtney wakes today to her first major test, with the Royal Hobart Hospital’s emergency medicine director revealing a facility in crisis.
Dr Emma Huckerby revealed in the Coroners Court yesterday that 1800 admitted patients last year waited more than 24 hours in the emergency department. That compared to just two across Melbourne’s four big hospitals.
HUNDREDS of patients admitted to the Royal Hobart Hospital are waiting more than 24 hours in the emergency department before they are given a ward bed — a situation that is disproportionate to the rest of Australia and which the hospital management does not have the resources to address, an inquest has heard.
The hospital’s emergency medicine director Emma Huckerby yesterday told an inquest the issue of “access block” was complex and needed “a lot of” time, money and skills to fix.
“The degree of access block at the Royal Hobart Hospital is disproportionate to the rest of Australia,” Dr Huckerby said.
She said more than 1800 patients who were admitted to the hospital last financial year spent more than 24 hours in the emergency department, compared with just two patients at four large Melbourne hospitals — the Alfred, Austin, St Vincent’s and Royal Melbourne — combined.
Dr Huckerby said managers at the RHH “don’t have any resources with which to address access block effectively”.
Dr Huckerby was giving evidence at the inquest into the July 2016 death of Mornington man Joseph Lattimer, 37, who died following an attempt to take his own life while he was waiting for admission to the Royal Hobart Hospital for psychiatric treatment.
Dr Huckerby said there had been an increase overall in the number of doctors and nurses working in the emergency department since July 2016.
She said the department also had funding for a psychiatric emergency nurse every shift, but recruiting difficulties meant not all shifts could be covered, including 60 per cent of night shifts.
Tasmania’s chief psychiatrist Aaron Groves told the inquest the working environment at the Royal Hobart Hospital made it more difficult to recruit.
“It’s not a position people would choose when there are vacancies elsewhere which are easier to do,” Dr Groves said.
The inquest heard Mr Lattimer was triaged when he arrived at the hospital at 5.02am on July 10, 2016, but there were no psychiatric beds or a suitable emergency department bed for him at that time, and there was no psychiatric emergency nurse on duty.
The inquest, before Coroner Olivia McTaggart, will resume at a later date.
FIX IT: Health Minister Sarah tCtourtney Courtney rtney at the Royal Hobart recently.